5 duathlons in 5 days: My experiencing racing virtual duathlons

About six years ago, my now-husband and parents teamed up to buy me a Jamis hybrid bike for my birthday. I love to ride it, but I find that running takes up so much of my time (especially when I am marathon training) that I don’t take it out as much as I should or would like to. 

That’s changed over the past few weeks as I took on Rip It Events’ V5 — 5 Virtual Duathlons series, and raced five virtual run-bike-runs in five days. I wrapped up the challenge today after five weeks — I did one duathlon every weekend and opted for the sprint version (1 mile run, 10 mile bike ride, 2 mile run) for the first four duathlons, then bumped up to the intermediate version (2 mile run, 20 mile bike ride, 4 mile run) for the last one. Woo, that was tough! It’s been years since I’ve ridden my bike that far.

It was a ton of fun and reminded me that when things get back to “normal,” I’d like to start signing up for more duathlons. Before this series, I did Rip It’s now-defunct Maryland Duathlon in 2017 and 2018. It always was held the day I left for Rehoboth for vacation, and honestly it was a struggle to wake up before the sun, drive an hour to do the race, race, and then drive to the beach. (In 2017, I stupidly went to an Orioles game the night before the race and got about two hours of sleep! I don’t know how I managed.) So last year, I decided not to do it, and unfortunately that was the last year for the race. 

Duathlons are definitely a different kind of challenge than running. While I love to ride my bike, I am not fast on it, and part of that is because I do fear crashing and hurting myself. (You don’t have to worry about that with running!) Aside from that, doing the last run after getting off the bike is HARD — my legs always feel like Jello. (How do my friends who race Ironman triathlons do it?) 

I also decided to push myself with the sprint duathlons and run the one mile at the beginning as an all-out effort to see what I could do. I’ve only raced the mile once, and that was last September when I did the Market Street Mile in Frederick in 6:11. I haven’t been doing any real speedwork lately, so imagine my shock when last weekend, in my fourth Du, I actually broke six minutes in the mile and ran a 5:56. I truly did not think I was capable of that. I’ll write a blog post on that in a few days, but needless to say, I was so excited. 

I believe I completed all of my sprints in around an hour and 10 minutes, and last week’s duathlon with the mile PR was right around an hour and five minutes. Today’s intermediate effort took me about two and a half hours to complete. I’ve been treating other virtual races, including Get Pumped For Pets and the Cinco De Mayo 5K, as real races in that I am waking up early like I would for a real race and even wearing race bibs. I didn’t do that with the duathlons, mostly because I don’t like to wake up early and also because I didn’t necessarily have goal times in mind for these races. As I am not an experienced duathlete (yet?!), simply completing them was the challenge.

And it sure was a fun one! I truly looked forward to “du”-ing each one, so thank you again to Rip It Events with coming up with such fun and creative virtual events in these bizarre times.

Proceeds from the race also benefited Food It Forward, a collaboration between a small group of restaurants to drive business, save restaurant jobs and provide food to those in need throughout the pandemic.

In fact, I enjoyed these duathlons so much that I signed up for the Marine Corps Marathon’s virtual Quantico Duathlon (originally supposed to be a triathlon that obviously got canceled). I have until the end of August to complete it, and I may save it for July 26. That’s two days before my 40th birthday, and the half marathon I was scheduled to run that day got canceled, so this might be a good substitute. If it’s not 100 degrees, I guess.

As a Rip It Events ambassador, I receive free entries to all of their races, including their virtual races. 

A solid performance at the Cinco De Mayo Virtual 5K

I surprised myself with my performance in Rip It Events’ Cinco De Mayo Virtual 5K earlier this week! My 21:35 was one of my strongest 5Ks ever, especially when I thought I’d be lucky to be in the 22s. 

There were a few reasons why I didn’t think I’d run that great. First of all, I had raced the second of five virtual duathlons in Rip It’s V5 Duathlon series on Saturday, then turned around and did the virtual Get Pumped For Pets 15K the next day. I ran an easy three miles Monday evening, then Tuesday was Cinco De Mayo, so I wasn’t sure how recovered I was. 

Second, I always say 5Ks are my nemesis, and try as I might, I almost always end up going out way too fast and the last mile feels like a death march. 

Third, it was still a virtual race, and without the race atmosphere, it can be hard to really push. 

So why DID I run well? Again, a few reasons. First, the weather was freaking fantastic Tuesday morning — high 40s and little wind. Ideal running weather. Second, I ran a 3.1 mile loop in my neighborhood that I run allllll the time, so I knew my course really, really well. 

Third, much like with Get Pumped For Pets, I treated it like a real race. I went to bed early the night before and set out my race clothes before falling asleep. This time, I didn’t have to make my own bib — Rip It made one for me!

 I woke up early to eat my breakfast (peanut butter and banana on an English muffin, not a bagel …. I find a bagel is just too heavy for a shorter distance like a 5K) and do the race before work. I could have waited until after work, but that makes fueling effectively more challenging. 

I’m thrilled that I actually negative split the race, running the first mile in 7:09, the second in 7:00 flat and the third in 6:46. (I didn’t look to see what my pace was for the final 0.1.) That almost never happens for me, especially in 5Ks! 

I started my race around 6:40 am, so actually earlier than most race start times, but like I said I wanted to knock it out before I started my day of work (from home). There were a few people out walking and running, too, and I don’t know if anyone noticed I was wearing a bib, but one woman called out “nice pace!” as I ran past.     

5Ks hurt, there is no doubt about that, but I had a lot of fun doing this. I shouldn’t have discounted virtual races as much as I did, because I am loving the V5 Duathlon series and I was legitimately excited to wake up and race Get Pumped For Pets and the Cinco De Mayo 5K. These events are really giving me something fun to look forward to in very challenging times. 

That’s probably been my biggest struggle through this pandemic — I haven’t had anything to look forward to, and it’s been hard for me to get excited about much. I know this makes me very privileged in the grand scheme of things, but that’s how I’ve been feeling. So I am very grateful to these virtual races for giving me some of my enthusiasm back! 

My next virtual race is Rip It’s Donut Worry. Be Happy. Virtual 5K on June 5, which is also National Donut Day. It’s on a Friday, so again I plan to be up early before work (I’m assuming at this point I’ll still be WFH) and I’ll run the same course I did this week. It’s likely to be much warmer then, so we’ll see how it goes! 

Have you signed up for any virtual races this spring? 

As a Rip It Events ambassador, I receive free entries to all of their races, including their virtual races. The Donut Worry 5K is sold out, but you can register for the V5 Duathlon series here!

Tackling the Get Pumped For Pets Virtual 15K

It’s May 3, 2020, and pretty much nothing about the future is certain right now — including when we are going to be able to return to life as “normal.” For myself and many other runners, that means we have no idea when we are going to be able to return to racing again — this fall? (I’m starting to doubt that.) Spring 2021? (I hope so!)

It’s a bummer, but it is inspiring to see the running community come up with many creative ways to make up for all the canceled events, including running challenges and virtual races. After all, #RunningIsntCanceled. So I decided to stop being a hater and participate in a few virtual events– including this morning’s Get Pumped For Pets 15K, which I ran around my neighborhood in Edgewater. 

The race, which raises money for local animal shelters and also includes a 5K and a 10K option, was supposed to take place on March 29 on Kent Island. I had signed up for the 15K because according to my training plan for the Coastal Delaware Marathon, I was supposed to run 10 miles that day (15K = 9.3 miles, close enough!) That was going to be my last run before I began my three-week taper. Well, coronavirus hit the U.S., my marathon was canceled and Get Pumped For Pets was rescheduled for May 3. When it became clear that the race could still not happen on that day due to social distancing guidelines and other restrictions, the Seashore Striders, who organized it, converted everyone’s registration to a virtual race. 

Since I was going to be getting a medal and finisher’s shirt in the mail anyway, I decided I was going to run the 15K the morning of May 3 at race effort. My goal was to finish sub-1:10, and I barely did it, with a time of 1:09:47. It’s a lot harder to push yourself when you aren’t racing against other people! But I was pleased with that time. I have only raced one other 15K before, about five years ago, and I finished in 1:12:xx, so I guess this was a PR!  

I decided to treat this virtual race like it was a true race. I even made a race bib:

5/14 is my anniversary.

And then last night, I got takeout from Urburger Edgewater so I could have my traditional veggie burger and French fries (already had beer at home, duh.)  I laid out my race outfit before I went to sleep and set my alarm this morning for 6 am, then got up and had my coffee and my bagel with peanut butter and half a banana. I ate, let my food digest for a bit, used the bathroom a few times and then was ready to go by 7:30. It was extremely humid out and I ditched the arm warmers I was planning to wear with my singlet (I’m so glad I did that– I would have been dying otherwise.) 

To be honest, things felt pretty tough from the get go. This could have been because yesterday, I did the second of five sprint duathlons in Rip It Events’ V5 Virtual Duathlon series (more to come on that later!) and my legs felt tired. But I was determined to push through. I saw a few people out and about either running, biking or walking. My friend Shannon was out walking her dog and I saw her twice while I was running my route around the hood. “I’m doing a virtual race!” I yelled as I passed her, to let her know that’s why I wasn’t stopping to chat. Haha. I kind of wondered if people saw my bib and wondered what the hell I was doing, but I didn’t notice any strange looks. 

I did one big loop around my neighborhood that was around 6.4 miles and then a shorter loop to get me to 9.3 miles. The “finish line” ended up being just a few steps from my house, so it worked out! I was pretty spent afterwards and just sat down in my backyard for a few minutes. I know I could have done this race any time of the day I wanted to, but I’m glad I made myself get up early and knock it out. I felt really accomplished! And as I said, I did want to treat it like it was a real race. 

I suspect I might have been able to go faster if I had been at an actual race, surrounded by other runners and spectators, and if I hadn’t done a run-bike-run the day before. Also, the race takes place on Kent Island’s Cross Island Trail, which is pancake flat. My neighborhood has rolling hills — nothing crazy, but it’s definitely hillier than the trail. But who knows.   

Either way, I’m glad I did it this morning. Next up is Rip It’s Cinco De Mayo Virtual 5K on Tuesday. I’m planning to get up early before work and run it. The 5K is my nemesis and I haven’t raced one since Thanksgiving Day, so I have no idea what I’ll run. 21:xx would be great, but I think 22:xx is more likely. 

Maybe virtual races aren’t such a bad thing after all

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how I have zero interest in virtual races. Why would I pay money for that? What’s the point when I would just be by myself and unable to enjoy the race atmosphere? Can’t I just go on a regular old training run? 

I may have *slightly* changed my tune. I don’t see myself running a virtual marathon any time soon (or ever), but maybe I’m down with virtual versions of smaller races after all. 

My change of heart started when Rip It Events announced a Cinco de Mayo virtual 5K. I’ve been a proud ambassador for Rip It for several years, and I’m so sad to see their spring race season just disappear due to COVID-19. First they had to postpone the Clyde’s 10K, then cancel both the Bear Triathlon and the Columbia Association Triathlon. (That last one really stings, personally. Last year’s Columbia Association Tri was my first and only tri, and I was really looking forward to doing the super sprint again. Next year, I will be there!) 

So to make up for these postponements and cancellations, Rip It owners Danny and Suzy decided to organize the Cinco de Mayo virtual run. It sold out so quickly that they pulled together a second virtual 5K, the Donut Worry Be Happy Virtual 5K Run to coincide with National Doughnut Day in June. 

I registered for both, because as an ambassador I want to show my support. I figured that was probably it for me for virtual races. 

But then I got an email from Get Pumped For Pets, a race that I was supposed to be running on May 3 on Kent Island. The original race had been scheduled for March 29, but when coronavirus started blowing up, the Seashore Striders optimistically rescheduled it for May 3. I figured they would end up either rescheduling it again or canceling it all together, and earlier this week, they decided to do the latter. They also decided to convert everyone to a virtual race and mail out finisher medals and T-shirts (which apparently have a special quarantine-themed logo on them, LOL) afterwards. 

So, I’m already getting all the swag associated with that race, including a medal. I hate the idea of hanging up a medal (yes, I display every medal for every race I do) for a race I never ran. Therefore, I decided that I am going to race a virtual 15K on May 3. That way, I’ll feel like I have actually earned the medal and the shirt! 

And honestly? I’ve been struggling with feeling like I have nothing to look forward to. I’m normally a pretty upbeat person, but this is a challenging time for everyone, no matter your life circumstances. All of my races are canceled through at least the month of June. I can’t go anywhere. Who knows if I’ll be able to take my planned summer vacation. At least virtual races will give me something fun to plan for.

I doubt I’ll be seeking out virtual races to sign up for, unless they are Rip It races (update as of April 27: I’m now also registered for Rip It’s V5 Virtual Duathlon series! Check it out and sign up for one of four different distances), or unless my favorite A10 goes virtual this year. But I think if a race I’m signed up for automatically converts my registration to a virtual one, I might as well do it. If there’s a deferment option, I’ll take that instead, but if not — why not do the virtual race? This is our life for the foreseeable future.  

Might as well make the best of it.

As a Rip It ambassador, I received free entry to these races and other Rip It races.

Running through a global pandemic: Staying motivated in uncertain times

I miss racing. It’s such a small thing in the grand scheme of all the awful things that are happening in the world, but man, I can’t wait until I get to do it again. 

First both the B&A Trail Marathon in March and the Coastal Delaware Running Festival in April got canceled. The West End St. Patrick’s Day 5K that Staci and I were going to run together got canceled. The Get Pumped For Pets 15K, which was supposed to happen on March 29, has been rescheduled until May 3, but I assume that will be either rescheduled again or canceled all together. 

Then last week, I learned that the St. Michael’s Running Festival on May 16 had been canceled. I had wanted to do that race for years and was registered for the half marathon, so I’m disappointed, but again, not surprised.  

Even though I just wrote about my disinterest in virtual races, I’m now starting to change my tune … a little. 

I’m an ambassador for Rip It Events, which, like many other race companies, has suffered the effects of the pandemic. Their Clyde’s 10K, originally supposed to happen on April 26, has been postponed to the fall, and they had to cancel the Bear Triathlon in May. 

So, to fill those gaps, Rip It Events pulled together two virtual 5K races — the Cinco De Mayo Virtual 5K and the Donut Worry Be Happy Virtual Run. I signed up for them because I want to support Rip It and at least with the Cinco de Mayo race, we’ll probably still be under a stay-at-home order and so I won’t be going out for Mexican food and margaritas like I usually do! People responded really well to the Cinco de Mayo race and it sold out in less than a day. I’m expecting the Donut Worry run to fill up fast as well, so sign up here if you want to join in on the fun

After that, I don’t have a “real” race scheduled until Rip It’s Columbia Association Triathlon in June, which is still happening as of today, but if I can’t get into a pool to train before, well, mid-May at the absolute latest, I might as well defer. (I haven’t swum since last year’s Columbia Triathlon — my first and only tri — last June!) And who knows what things are going to look like this summer. I was going to register for the Seashore Striders 5 Mile Run in Rehoboth in July again, but I’m holding off on that for now. I hope things will be back to normal and I’ll get to enjoy a vacation at the beach like I do every summer, but I really don’t know. 

I don’t know what the future holds. No one does. 

I’m still running at least four days a week, including a long run on the weekends. I’ve backed off on the speed work and tempos, and haven’t been paying much attention to my pace. Two weekends ago, I ran 15 miles at an 8:06/mile pace. If I were still officially marathon training, that would probably be way too fast for a long run, but that was the pace that felt good to me that day so I went with it. It was bittersweet because I really feel I would have met my goal and then some at Coastal Delaware. But things happen.

I’ve been seeing a lot of stuff on social media about how to stay motivated when there are no races on the horizon. Honestly, habit is driving me more than motivation these days. I run. That’s what I do in my free time. And aside from that, if I couldn’t run (and take kickboxing classes via Zoom! Yes, we actually punch invisible targets!) I feel like I might go crazy.

I’ve been working from home for three weeks now, and I am fortunate that I have the ability to do this. I also work in communications for a hospital, so to say things have been stressful lately is an understatement. I’ve been busy with work, and of course I’ve been following all social distancing requirements. Going outside to run — which is allowed, as long as you stay six feet away from others — is really the only time I leave my house/yard. 

It’s really tough. And it’s hard not to know when the end date is going to be. I try to remember that I’m pretty lucky. My job sure isn’t going anywhere, and my husband is still able to work, too. He works in the marine industry and has been physically going into work daily, but it’s just him and two other coworkers and they wear masks and keep their physical distance. We are OK financially. And so far, we are healthy and everyone in our families is healthy.  

How is everyone managing in these crazy times?

Why I’m not interested in running a virtual race

With races this spring getting canceled left and right because of coronavirus concerns, many race directors are offering up an alternative to runners who still want to earn their T-shirts and medals: A virtual race. 

A virtual race allows participants to run their race, well, virtually anywhere they choose. For example, the Coastal Delaware Running Festival offered entrants a virtual option when they decided to cancel next month’s race. Had I chosen to switch my registration to the virtual race, I could have run my marathon at home and then gotten my T-shirt and medal in the mail in a few weeks. 

Instead, I deferred my entry until the 2021 race. I have really no interest in running a virtual race. 

Why? I just can’t see myself paying actual money for something that doesn’t seem like a real race to me. I mean, I can just run whatever distance that is for free (though I don’t see myself ever running 26.2 miles just for the hell of it, as I’ll explain in a little bit.) For example, the Across the Bay 10K offered a virtual option in 2019 when the road race was canceled due to Bay Bridge construction. I was super bummed — I was one of the race’s legacy runners, meaning I’d run it every single year that it took place, from 2014 through 2018. 

But at the same time, I also didn’t want to pay a race fee to run 6.2 miles and get a medal in the mail. I have enough medals, it’s not like I would have been able to run across the bridge (the whole allure of that race!) and I can run 6.2 miles any old day. Not interested! 

And I REALLY don’t see myself paying money for a virtual marathon. First of all, I may have run seven marathons, but every one is still a BIG deal to me. Marathons involve a ton of training. They involve a ton of commitment. They involve a ton of energy gels, LOL. And at the end of all those weeks of training and commitment and energy gels, the race is like a big celebration. I love lining up with other runners at the start line and seeing the crowds cheering us on and high-fiving little kids and reading the funny signs spectators hold up. I love hamming it up for the race photographers (when I see them — when I don’t, I usually look like I’m about to pass a kidney stone or something). I love the exhilaration of crossing the finish line and taking my bottle of water and medal from a smiling race volunteer. 

You don’t get any of that at a virtual race. 

And above all that, my goal for Coastal Delaware was to qualify for Boston. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure the Boston Athletic Association doesn’t accept virtual race times as BQs. So the last thing I wanted to do is race a marathon to the best of my ability, get a Boston qualifying time and know that I can’t use it! 

Yes, I realize I could just run a virtual race as a “fun run,” but why would I do that when I spent all those weeks training? 

So virtual races really aren’t my thing, but based on my social media feeds, a lot of my runner friends are doing them to make up for their races being canceled. 

If you’re running a virtual race this spring, which one(s) are you running? What do you like about virtual races?

Coronavirus and running: How COVID-19 spoiled my spring racing plans

About three weeks ago, Micah and I got into an argument over the Coastal Delaware Running Festival. 

“You know that’s not going to be happening,” he said. “Coronavirus is coming here and that race is going to be canceled.” 

“That’s ridiculous,” I said. (At this point, COVID-19 was merely a threat overseas, though I knew it was likely to show up in the U.S.) 

“No, it’s not. It will be here and we are not equipped to deal with it,” he said. “I would look for another marathon just in case, and soon.” 

I kept on training for Coastal Delaware, and news about the coronavirus continued to swirl. Doesn’t the flu kill more people? I thought. Why would this lead to cancellations of events like races? 

Micah and I kept arguing about it. “I’m in the best shape of my life and I know I can qualify for Boston again,” I told him. “Yeah, that may be true, but coronavirus doesn’t care,” he retorted. 

And last week, I started to get nervous. Speculation that the Boston Marathon would be canceled for the first time ever caused a ruckus in numerous running groups I belong to on Facebook. There were people in Maryland who were tested for COVID-19 infection. The first confirmed cases of the virus began to appear in my area, and the governor declared a State of Emergency. 

So, with a week and a half ago, I signed up for the B&A Trail Marathon.

And then this week, everything blew up. 

Public schools in Maryland are closed for two weeks beginning Monday. Restrictions were placed on visitors to hospitals across the state. Public gatherings of more than 250 people have been banned in an attempt to stop the virus from infecting more people in Maryland (as of this post, there are 17 confirmed cases.) The NBA and the NHL suspended their seasons. MLB’s Opening Day has been pushed back at least two weeks.

On Wednesday, the Annapolis Striders announced B&A was canceled. The next evening, Coastal Delaware followed suit. And so did just about every road race in the DMV and beyond. The St. Patrick’s Day 5K Staci and I were going to run in Allentown, Pennsylvania got canceled. The Get Pumped For Pets race on the Eastern Shore has been postponed. (I co-authored a story about the coronavirus and race cancellations for RunWashington, but it’s largely out of date now.)

I contemplated continuing to search for another marathon to save my hard work from going to waste — the Pittsburgh Marathon in May is still on as of this writing, but I feel like it’s only a matter of time until that gets canceled, too. There’s really no point in registering. I’m still registered for the Chicago and Philly marathons this fall, and I assume things will have calmed down by then — but that’s outside of the Boston 2021 qualifying window, so I’ll have to shoot for 2022. 

(As an aside, the Boston Athletic Association announced today that they are postponing the 2020 marathon until September. Totally the right decision — runners work way too hard to get there to have that just taken away from them!)

I’m bummed out, but I also recognize that these are steps that we need to take to hopefully prevent a major public health crisis. Am I worried about getting COVID-19? Not really. I’m very healthy and rarely get sick. I can’t even recall the last time I was seriously ill. I am pretty sure that if I got coronavirus, I’d be like the vast majority of people who get it and recover relatively quickly. Maybe I’d barely notice the symptoms. The bigger concern is passing it along to someone who is not as healthy and has a compromised immune system. I don’t want to get the virus and then pass it on to someone who could develop pneumonia and die. 

And is running Boston 2021 really THAT important? I ran the marathon last year. I loved it. Seriously, the day I ran the Boston Marathon is easily among my favorite days ever. But there are so many more Bostons to come and I know I have so many more chances to qualify and run from Hopkinton to Boston. 

Lining up at the start of the 2019 Boston Marathon
I was just so excited to be running the Boston Marathon!

It sucks, because I really thought a BQ and a marathon PR were mine next month. But I’ll dial back on my training (I’ll still keep on running a lot — I just won’t be following any kind of training plan at the moment) and then kick it back up again in June to prepare for Chicago. My calendar is now clear of races until the Get Pumped For Pets 15K and the St. Michael’s Half Marathon, both in May. We’ll see if things are back to normal then — I know there is a chance they won’t be. (Hence my hesitation at signing up for Pittsburgh.)

At the end of the day, it’s just running. I’ll keep on doing it because I love it and look forward to the day that I can race again. Because that day will come!